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Friday, Dec. 9, 2016

Men at work

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Hi neighbors. I was driving to Joplin with my friend Flossie. As always we came across the highway nemesis "roadwork" at least four times between point A and point B. After the first two areas of four to 10 miles each of two way traffic I noticed something missing.

"Hey, Flossie, have you noticed you never see any MEN AT WORK signs along the roads any more?" My words were bouncing as much as we were as we drove across uneven pavement and tried to avoid potholes on the narrow lane.

"No need for them any more," Flossie answered, holding her half-filled coffee cup out in front of her in case it sloshed over.

"What do you mean? They still have ROAD WORK AHEAD signs and WORK ZONE signs and the ever popular $200 MINIMUM FINE IF PASSING OR SPEEDING WITH WORKERS PRESENT sign."

"They don't use them any more because each road crew has at least one woman on the team," Flossie explained slowly, delicately balancing her coffee cup between her knees while opening a packet of sweetener.

"Oh! You mean the sign makers thought it might be politically incorrect to make signs that say MEN WORKING or MEN AT WORK with women on the team."

She looked at me and scowled. "No, that is not what I meant. For pity's sake, think about it awhile." She tucked the now empty packet into her pocket and pulled out a packet of powdered creamer. Balancing the cup in her hand she scanned the road ahead and waited for the approaching END OF CONSTRUCTION sign.

"Well, maybe money was a factor. It would cost a lot to replace the MEN AT WORK signs and be simpler just to forget about it. It would be very expensive to make new signs saying MEN AND WOMEN AT WORK."

I tried to ease over the last big jump from a low pavement to one at least three inches higher. "Hang onto your coffee!" I yelled just as the tires hopped onto the higher roadway.

"My coffee," Flossie screeched, "What about my dentures! Slow down woman! The sign says 15 MPH and you're doing at least 17. You'll kill us both at these speeds, or at least leave us toothless!"

The car bumped first in front, then in back then had a strange slanted moment when one side of the car was on the low road and the other side on the high road. Finally the pavement leveled out, the END OF CONSTRUCTION sign, complete with smiley face vanished behind us and we were once again on a good highway.

With all four wheels now moving in unison Flossie poured her creamer into her cup, tucked that packet into her pocket with the sweetener packet, and pulled out a stirring stick.

"What were we talking about?" I asked, reaching down with shaky hands for my own sippy cup of coffee from the console.

Flossie took a big gulp of coffee, sighed in satisfaction and said, "I have been trying to get you to figure out why they no longer post MEN AT WORK or MEN WORKING signs." She looked directly at me. "Have you figured it out yet?"

I took another sip of coffee and signed. "Nope, not a clue."

Flossie shook her head. "Think back to the days when they had MEN AT WORK signs everywhere. Did you ever drive past those signs and actually see men working? Or did you see men leaning against equipment, men digging out tools, men talking to other men, or men getting into or out of vehicles?"

I thought about it for a few seconds and grinned. "By gosh, Flossie, you're right! The odds are more than even that I never saw men working at those MEN AT WORK signs."

She gulped and I sipped.

"But what does that mean?" I asked quietly.

She sighed with the resignation of a math teacher going over a difficult problem for the umpteenth time for a half-asleep class of sixth graders.

"MEN AT WORK signs are not to warn drivers. They were developed by psychologists to help keep all-male work crews focused. The large orange backgrounds served to prevent them from just wandering away from the site.

"When someone finally got brains enough to start hiring women road workers, the MEN AT WORK signs became obsolete. Men now have a woman to tell them what to do, keep them focused and yell at them if they wander off. Of course with only one woman per crew she can't watch everyone and accidents still happen. That's why they have to post those WATCH OUT FOR (wandering) WORKERS signs to warn drivers."

Well, that's one explanation.

Nancy Malcom
The Third Cup